Local motor sports notes: Sonoma, Thunderhill, Sleep Train Arena - where to go on June 21?

Published: Thursday, Jun. 12, 2014 - 8:55 pm

Motor sports fans in the region will have quite the quandary June 21 because of a scheduling conflict.

NASCAR makes its annual trip to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 the weekend of June 20-22. The K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 – qualifying and the race – is June 21 and will feature several area drivers, including Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson, an Elk Grove native.

On the same day, two hours north in Willows, Thunderhill Raceway Park will host a grand opening of its track expansion and a Sports Car Club of America San Francisco Regional Championship race. Throw in an endurocross event at Sleep Train Arena and the Wine Country Classic sprint car race at Calistoga Speedway, and race fans have to make some tough decisions.

“Have you ever made a schedule for a facility that’s open year-round?” asked Gary Pitts, the SCCA San Francisco regional executive who also oversees Thunderhill. “When you’re scheduling in Northern California, you have to look at what’s happening at Sonoma, Laguna Seca and Thunderhill, and (June 21) was our only open date.”

NASCAR and Sonoma Raceway have held the Toyota/Save Mart 350 the weekend after Father’s Day since 2011, raceway spokeswoman Diana Brennan said.

“We were not aware of the date of the Thunderhill event,” said Sonoma Raceway President Steve Page, who will be inducted next weekend into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. “But our NASCAR date has been public knowledge, at least tentatively, for well over a year, so we can only assume Thunderhill chose to schedule their event on NASCAR weekend with the expectation the two events would not impact one another.”

The track at Thunderhill was repaved last weekend, and a full-track inspection will be conducted this weekend by SCCA officials ahead of the race, Pitts said. That made scheduling the grand opening of the expansion even more difficult. The expansion, called Thunderhill West, completes a five-mile loop, making Thunderhill Raceway Park the longest track in North America, according to the SCCA.

The grand opening is scheduled for 6 p.m., which may be doable for those inclined to watch NASCAR qualifying at Sonoma at 10 a.m., the Carneros 200 at 12:30 p.m. and then drive roughly 120 miles to Thunderhill.

SCCA members also are stretched by the schedule. Staffing races is the responsibility of the volunteer club and is always an issue. On the same weekend in May, Sonoma Raceway held the Sonoma Historics race, Thunderhill held an SCCA event, and the Ferrari Challenge was held at Laguna Seca. All three events were staffed, at least in part, by SCCA members.

“We do what we can,” Pitts said.

For more information about the SCCA at Thunderhill Raceway Park, go to www.thunderhill.com.

Locals at Sonoma – Larson will compete in his first Toyota/Save Mart 350 as a full-time NASCAR driver. Larson is 10th in points.

Area drivers in the Carneros 200 are Thomas Martin of Auburn, Greg Rayl of Roseville, Dylan Lupton of Wilton, Jack Sellers of Sacramento and Jim Inglebright of Fairfield.

For more information about the Carneros 200 and Toyota/Save Mart 350, go to www.racesonoma.com.

Local at endurocross – Endurocross is starting to gain popularity, and Lincoln rider Joey Fiasconaro will compete in the Open Amateur division June 21 at Sleep Train Arena. Endurocross is a mix of supercross, trials and enduro racing often held indoors over obstacles such as rocks, boulders, logs, sand and mud. The sport combines the speed of motocross with the technical riding requirements of trials competitions.

For more information, go to www.endurocross.com.

Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at editorwriter@att.net.

Read more articles by Mark Billingsley

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